Smart Money, Retirement Buying Power

Key Ingredients of the Happiest Mountain Towns

Best Mountain Towns
Published on January 7, 2016

If you've ever wondered where to find the happiest mountain towns, here's a fun way to learn. Check out a new contest sponsored by BlueRidgeCountry (dot)com. With voting open to the online public, the contest will identify "The Happiest Towns in The Blue Ridge Mountains", based on criteria such as:

  • median household incomes
  • median home values
  • cost of living
  • educational achievement
  • percentage of married couples
  • commute times
  • crime rates
  • unemployment rate
  • pedestrian friendliness
  • and more

For the contest, 61 finalists were carefully selected as official candidates. They include the best places to live in South Carolina, the best North Carolina mountain communities, and "happy" towns known for their wonderful Georgia mountain properties. 

From these finalists, Community Finder has chosen 6 great places it believes are top contenders for the award. These include big cities, small cities, and peaceful Blue Ridge Mountain towns. 

Cities With a Population Over 50,000

1) Asheville, NC - When it comes to happy cities, few places are more high-spirited than Asheville, North Carolina. This is certainly one of the best North Carolina mountain communities. In fact, Asheville was named "America's Happiest City" by Self Magazine. What makes Asheville so great? Perhaps it is the constant flow of creativity, which can be seen in the city's vibrant arts and culture, the bars and restaurants, and even in the public parks and River Arts District. The mountain scenery is also an important factor, with so many places to escape to in the countryside. Other accolades that Asheville has received include:

  • "#1 on the list of the "20 Coolest Towns in U.S." by Matador Network 2015
  • "One of America's 12 Greatest Music Cities," by Thrilllist .com, 2015
  • "#12 of Top 100 Best Places to Live in America" by Livability .com, 2014

2) Greenville, SC - According to Forbes Magazine, Greenville SC has one of America's Best Downtowns, making it one of the best places to live in South Carolina. Here you'll find a thriving culture scene, great places to eat, and people full of warmth and southern hospitality. The city's landmark is Falls Park on the Reedy, with gardens, waterfalls, a pedestrian suspension bridge, and access to system of delightful nature trails. For Greenville residents, it also helps that incomes average $40,000/year. Important accolades that Greenville has received include:

  • "The Hippest Little City in The South," by Garden and Gun Magazine
  • "Top 5 Most Fun, Affordable City", by Bloomberg Media
  • "Top 10 Cycling Cities in the United States," by The Global Cycling Network

Cities With a Population Between 10,000 - 49,000

1) Maryville, TN - Surrounded by the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, there are plenty of things to be happy about in Maryville, Tennessee. Most notably, the town has a young and vibrant college atmosphere, thanks to the liberal-arts campus of Maryville College. If you are a nature lover, there are seven parks with creeks and picnic areas, as well as walking trails that take you through the rolling countryside. Residents here are comfortable with the quiet, small town feel, while still having a number of options for dining, shopping and entertainment. Maryville has received accolades for its quality of life, local schools, and healthcare institutions.

2) Clemson, SC - While Clemson may be famous for its university, it is also one of the best places to live in South Carolina. While this may have a lot to do with being a college town (Clemson ranks 7th nationally for having the "happiest students," according to the Princeton Review), there are other factors making this a great city to live in. The city sits sublimely on the shores of Lake Hartwell, one of the southeast's largest recreation lakes, where residents enjoy camping, swimming, fishing, boating, and other water sports. And Clemson has a number of delightful scenic spots, including the enchanting South Carolina Botanical Garden. Perhaps what makes the residents here happiest of all, is the median family income of about $77,704.

Towns With a Population Under 10,000

1) Dahlonega, GA - With a population of about 5,300, Dahlonega is small town America at its best. Here you'll find some unbelievable Georgia mountain properties. One hour north of Atlanta, this town is a magnificent mountain getaway, with signature golf, outdoor adventures, and award winning wineries. In the countryside, Dahlonega is surrounded by romantic waterfalls, and nature trails that take you through exquisite scenery. The town's national accolades include:

  • "4th Best Summer Weekend Escape" - USA Today Travel 2014
  • "Best Wine Town Runner Up, Southern Dream Towns” Garden & Gun Magazine 2012
  • "23rd Best Small City in America" - Charles Anderson's In Search of Eden

2) Blowing Rock, NC - With a population of about 1,200, Blowing Rock is the smallest place you'll see here on our list. But that doesn't mean its not a great place in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Famous for its scenic views, Blowing Rock is mostly known for quiet mountain living. Residents enjoy activities such as whitewater rafting, hiking, kayaking, camping and rock climbing. There are also many places to see the local wildlife. If you like golf, there is a great course with amenities at Blowing Rock Country Club. And if you like horseback riding, saddle up at Blowing Rock Equestrian Preserve. The median income for a household in the town is approximately $54,271, and the median income for a family is about $66,979.